the Weekly Town Crier

TownCrierAnd then they lived happily ever after. Except there was this pesky little feeling that they were missing something, they had forgotten something. One night, as sleep evaded them, they whispered to one another: we forgot to check the Weekly Town Crier . . .

This is where I collect links of varying degrees of interest for various reasons.

Buy my art here or here or contact me directly to purchase originals.

Visit our family blog: “The Thomas Ten.”

Browse Paste‘s list of “8 Beer Hacks.”

ViewErnest Hemingway‘s life through his mementos.”

See images from visual artist Eduardo Terrazas‘ first solo exhibition in the UK.

Read as Paste argues: “Anthony Bourdain Is Still the Best Critic We Got”. Thoughts?

See photos of “people devoured by nature”.

Browse a visual list of “The 50 best-selling albums ever”.

Take “a look at Taco Bell’s first alcohol menu”.

Read Salon‘s profile of Memphis’ Lucero in honor of their terrific new album All A Man Should Do.

R.I.P. Phyllis Tickle.

R.I.P. Yogi Berra.

R.I.P. Jackie Collins.

Read as Drowned in Sound considers “the Ineffable Joy of Pop” as they talk with Carly Rae Jepsen.

Read as Ryan Adams talks about his album of Taylor Swift covers.

See the art of 10 serial killers.

See “Kintsugi, The Japanese Art of Fixing Broken Pottery With Gold.”

Browse as the Huffington Post makes their picks for Fall book releases.

Read Pitchfork‘s report of the posthumous release of “Over 40 Rare Instrumentals” by Dilla.

See the “New Caption That Works for All New Yorker Cartoons.”

Ever wonder why you can’t print without color ink?

Listen to Johann Johannssen‘s score for the film Sicario at Noisey.

Browse Paste‘s list of “7 Hotels for Artists and Art Lovers.”

Read reports that Kenny Rogers will quit touring.

Browse as the Orange County Register picks their favorite surfing books.

Read as the Guardian examines “the history of feuds between pop stars and the press.”

Read as Rolling Stone talks to Kurt Vile about his fantastic new album: ‘B’lieve I’m Goin Down…

Read as Kim Gordon interviews Kurt Vile.

Morrissey has released his debut novel and the reviews are not good: “It is an unpolished turd, the stale excrement of Morrissey’s imagination.”

Read as the Guardian examines John Peel’s lasting musical influence.

Read as Ivan and Alyosha pick their favorite music to listen to while touring.

Read the New York Timesreport that Ta-Nehisi Coates will write a Black Panther comic for Marvel.

Read as Literary Hub considers the convergence of books and music festivals.

Read as the AV Club considers the history of music bootlegging and browse as they make 15 “essential” picks.

Why Aren’t We More Troubled By Christianity?

downloadFor the past nine months, I have been wandering in my own sort of desert. Yes, I live in Phoenix, but that’s not what I mean. I have given the bulk of my professional career to what many call “vocational ministry.” I have served in some sort of paid capacity in three different churches in three different states and my two-fold theme has remained the same:

  1. No matter where you find yourself in your faith journey, may you be drawn closer to Jesus.
  2. Equip God’s people to do God’s work.

You might summarize this as helping people “love God and love people” and, though this can take on many different looks, it is more than enough to keep any local church busy until Kingdom Come. Literally.

Nine months ago, I resigned from ministry for personal reasons. The ensuing time has given me a different perspective on the Church in America and what we do and what we don’t do. Did you ever watch the show Monk, about an OCD private investigator played by Tony Shalhoub? There would often be a scene in which the police would be fumbling about the crime scene and Monk would enter the building and almost immediately see things the police didn’t. I know, I know, it’s a tired plot device used by Psych and countless others, but indulge me for a moment.

These private investigators enter the crime scene with a different perspective than the police. They are asking questions the police might not be asking. The past nine months out of vocational ministry have prompted me  to ask questions, not just about how I am doing in ministry or how our local church is doing but how are WE  are doing. By this, I mean the royal “we”, “the” Evangelical Church in America. And I’m left with more questions and concerns than ever.

One of the questions that has haunted me recently is why “we” are not more troubled by Christianity. David Dark has superbly summarized this question in The Sacredness of Questioning Everything:

Will we let the double-edged indictments of the scriptures cut us to the quick, creating problems in the lives we are living? Or will we enlist the words to serve only in our projects of self-congratulation, skipping the bits that question our beliefs and practices? Will we read the Bible only to reaffirm our beliefs and practices?

I worry that much of what passes for Christianity in America simply uses the Bible for affirmation and self-congratulation. Instead of submitting ourselves to the Spirit’s questioning of our lives, we use the Bible to simply affirm what we’re already doing.

How else can we explain the complacency of so many professing Christians? How else can we explain the prevalence of poverty in our midst; our acceptance of and participation in injustice? “Worship” gatherings that resemble rock concerts more than worship? Local churches who spend more money on buildings than widows and orphans? So many professing Christians chasing the American Dream of upward mobility and Suburban stability? How else could we be so sure that God supports our political agenda except that we’ve stopped listening?

The list goes on and is equally directed at me. I include myself in tis indictment. But it is an indictment nonetheless. There is certainly assurance to be found in following Jesus. But what if we’re sure about the wrong things? The message of Jesus should cause us to question ourselves more than we do. It should cause us to squirm and perhaps sweat a bit. Though there are many angles through which to view this issue, I want to focus today on the broad notion of social justice.

After all, Jesus is pretty clear about what He expects of His people: love people, even (especially?) your enemies. Share your stuff. Practice forgiveness and practice reconciliation. Look out for those who can’t look out for themselves, especially children. If you say you love Jesus, do these things. It’s that simple. And yet, for some reason, we believe it is not. We say it’s more complicated than that with the result that we do very little except assure others that God is on our side.

How well are “we” doing at the things Jesus says mark His people? Are we pursuing peace through meekness? Are we sacrificially caring for others, even those we don’t like? Are we pursuing reconciliation or taking partisan sides?

Francis of Assisi is credited with trolling Reformed Christians with the saying (even though it is likely he never said any such thing):

Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.

My Reformed friends immediately point out that the Gospel is “good news” and that it must be articulated in words or it is not the Gospel. Yeah, yeah, I get it. But Francis is certainly in line with Jesus Himself who told us to live lives of light so that those around us might glorify God (Matthew 5:16) and I worry that, while we argue about the articulation of the Good News of Jesus, we fail at its demonstration. We argue with one another’s proclamation while few of us actually do anything with it. Why else is the call to live “radical” lives for Jesus so prominent except that we are simply swallowed by the mundane and even vain expressions of faith in commercialism masked with spirituality?

When we sit under God’s Word rather than over it, we should be deeply unsettled. We should be willing to question our lives. Do they match Jesus’ descriptions of His people? More and more, I’m worried that my life does not. More and more, I’m worried that we have lost our witness in America simply because we don’t do the things that are expected of us (no, our actions do not merit our salvation but they are certainly not negotiable).

And I am not alone. Lest you think I’m just alarmistly promoting a “social gospel,” Stephen Colbert calls us to the carpet quite directly:

“If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.”

How in the world can we write off such sentiments so quickly? Do we have the ears to hear what Jesus expects? How in the world can we pursue lives of comfort when Jesus calls us to sacrifice?

I am convicted that it’s been far too long since I’ve been deeply unsettled by the call of Jesus to give up everything (maybe even literally) and follow Him. Truth be told, our lives are our primary apologetic. We can use words, but if we don’t live it, we must question whether or not we actually believe what we’re saying. Can we say we love Jesus and not love others?

Lord, wake us from our slumber. Remind us once again that forgiveness breeds forgiveness. Convict us once more that they will know we are yours, not by our political affiliation or the family-friendly movies we watch and “uplifting” radio we listen to but by our love.

Unsettle us. And move us to action.

There is work to be done.




the Weekly Town Crier

YeOldeTownCrierSometimes . . . well, you know . . . OK, maybe not.

Welcome to the Weekly Town Crier, a (mostly) weekly post in which I reproduce for you links that, for one reason or another caught my interest this past week. Hopefully they will interest you as well.

Buy my art here or here or contact me directly to purchase originals.

Visit our family blog: “The Thomas Ten.”

See Classic Green Army Figures Practicing Yoga Instead Of Holding Guns.

See a collection of a journalist’s four-year journey to chronicle India’s disappearing stepwells.

R.I.P. Wes Craven.

R.I.P. Oliver Sacks.

R.I.P. Dean Jones.

NOT R.I.P. Charlie Watts.

Read as Aquarium Drunkard interviews Yo La Tengo about their new covers album, Stuff Like That There.

Play an Iron Maiden video game in preparation of their new album.

See the “Tesla” watch.

Read Salon‘s pice on the “insipid” VMAs: “There is nothing so tame and boring as someone hungrily shoving their edginess in our faces…”

Read Time’s article: “Canadians Are Cutting $20 Bills in Half to Make Two $10s”.

Read Consequence of Sounds report that “David Bowie to write songs for SpongeBob Squarepants musical”.

Read about the shoes banned by the NBA.

Read as NPR’s Good Listener explores the relationship between music fans and their favorite bands’ side projects.

Speaking of side projects, read Paste‘s report that Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes just released an album with hers, Thunderbitch.

Read Outside’s report that President Obama will appear on “Bear Grylls” to highlight climate change.

See “Centuries-Old Woodblock Prints” updated as GIFs.

Read this piece arguing: “Buying organic veggies at the supermarket is a waste of money.” Thoughts?

Read as Paste wonders why Hulu thinks they can charge more for an inferior service. Thoughts? Do you use Hulu?

Read the profile of the “The homeless man who turned his life around by offering book reviews instead of begging.”

Read as the Atlantic asks: “Is Gentrification a Human-Rights Violation?”

Read as Paste laments the current state of country music: “The Ladies Used to Love Outlaws, Now The Ladies Are Outlaws”

Customize your space with huge Lego blocks for adults.

Read FACT‘s report that Panasonic is reviving the classic Technics turntable.

See Slate‘s map wondering: “If every state had an official word, what would it be?”

Watch “Watch ants weirdly circle an iPhone when it rings.”

Read Vox‘ piece: Giving housing to the homeless is three times cheaper than leaving them on the streets.”

Watch Jimmy Kimmel Explain the Miley Cyrus and Nicki Minaj Feud Using Emoji.”

Ever wonder what it might be like if Batman fronted a metal band?

Read what it might mean if the sound of chewing bothers you.

Read Pitchfork’s report that Neko Case is set to release a career-spanning box set.

Read as Cat Power discusses her role in the new Janis Joplin film.

Read as “Keith Richards calls Metallica and Black Sabbath rock music’s “great jokes”

YOLO, So Carpe Diem

yawp-walt-whitmanOne of my favorite movies is Dead Poets Society. In fact, in High School and slightly thereafter, some friends and I had our own version (of the group, not the movie) called Demented Sparrows.

We sought to live poetically. Not that we rhymed everything or spoke in iambic pentameter. We believed in the power of ideas and words as their trojan horses. We believed that there could be beauty in the mundane and that good writing flowed most easily from the pursuit of life in all its forms. We would have adventures and get together to write, read and share poetry. We even published a few ‘zines of poetry that we gave away. Maybe I’ll write more about all of that some other time.

The only thing many people remember about Dead Poets Society (besides a literary Patch Adams) is the phrase “carpe diem.” If not, watch this scene:

Many people know and even claim to live by the phrase “Carpe Diem” or “seize the day.” What’s interesting to me is that different generations often try to put their own spin on such passed-along sentiments. Culture works in part when we appropriate traditions and update them.

And now the Tumblr generation has tried to make Carpe Diem their own, re-branding it at YOLO. I confess that my finger is no longer on the popular culture pulse and I had to do some Urban Dictionary sleuthing the first time I saw “YOLO”. In case you’re like I was and are not familiar with the phrase, it stands for “You Only Live Once.”

One might be tempted to view YOLO and Carpe Diem as synonyms. In fact, this seems to be the sentiment held by many who cry YOLO while taking unnecessary risk. After all, both reflect on the fleeting nature of life and how life should then be lived. But the proof is in the pudding and the Tumblr generation is not eating the same pudding as people who understand “Carpe Diem.” Simply put, the two phrases do not mean the same thing. In fact, they seem to work against one another while both playing off of the same sentiment.

All one has to do is look at the popular usage of each phrase to see that they actually work against one another. YOLO is most widely used as an excuse to do stupid and/or dangerous things without thinking through their consequences. It is often used as an excuse to flout rules or expectations, to sneak into a bar instead of doing your homework. It is sometimes used apologetically to explain negative consequences that could have (should have) been avoided. It’s a brush-off of consequences.

Carpe Diem, on the other hand, is the constant reminder that death is around the corner, so “gather ye rosebuds while ye may.” This phrase is often used in association with giving extra effort to something, to setting one’s self apart from the crowd, to finding meaning in a fleeting life.

Carpe Diem seeks to make the most of life while YOLO flits it away.

I’m not saying we should live timid lives. Quite the opposite. But the difference between Carpe Diem and YOLO is that YOLO flagrantly disregards the value of life for the sake of an immediate experience while Carpe Diem makes the most of the moment precisely because life is valuable. Carpe Diem forces us to wrestle with the value of every decision while YOLO devalues our decision-making process.

While all of this may sound like semantics, with eight kids, it is something I think quite a bit about. I want my kids to make the most of life. I want them to be adventurers. I want to go out of their way to make a difference.

Yes, we only live once. So we should seize the day in the pursuit of love, of beauty, of adventure. We only live once so seize the day while you still can.